Triangle by Mac Barnett

There’s something special about a book cover that has no text on it. It may well be the eyes.  Martin’s Big Words, by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier, stands out as the larger-than-life portrait of Dr. King emits radiant life through his smile and eyes. Similarly, Jerry Pinkney’s Lion and Mouse depicts a lion’s strength – and ultimate downfall – through reproachful yet alert eyes.

It stands to reason, then, that there would never be any text on the cover of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s latest collaboration, Triangle.  Because Klassen is, if anything, the master of the picture book eye. With a (not-so) simple dot, he lets readers know how characters feel and think. Paired with Barnett’s always-unique storyline, this hotly-anticipated book didn’t disappoint.

Triangle by Mac Barnett, pictures by Jon Klassen

Triangle lives in the land of triangles: triangle-shaped house, door, even art. Wide eyed, he gives an innocent vibe.  But don’t be fooled: he is a sneaky fellow and, one day, sets off to play a delightful trick on his friend Square.  Square, seeking revenge, chases Triangle back to his house.  Readers will delight in predicting Square’s predicament of not fitting through Triangle’s door and inferring whether Square’s intentions were to play a similar sneaky trick on Triangle.  Square’s legs and – yes – eyes give it away: he is a square, after all.  The first in a planned trilogy (lucky us!), Barnett continues to create inventive, unique storylines and, paired with Klassen, he’s at his best.  Highly recommended.  Share with ages 3+.

The case design stands out, too: a board over paper cover, with rounded corners and heavier-than-average stock pages sewn into the binding. With no dust jacket, there is no chance to a peek underneath for any additional insight into the mind or actions of either character. A well-played choice.

Let’s circle back (pun intended) to Martin’s Big Words and Lion and Mouse.  The two covers shown earlier were upon initial publication. Today, however, they look like this:

People – librarians, booksellers, teachers, students – saw something in those eyes.  They stood out.  Were memorable.  Impactful.  One can only speculate if Triangle will join their esteemed ranks.

One thing is for sure: kids won’t be able to take their eyes off this one!

Triangle was published March 14, 2017 in both the US and the UK

One of the previewed titles at 2017 London Book Fair at the Candlewick/WalkerUK booth.

Cheers, y’all! 🙂 arika

Bringing literature to life with Skype

London. It has its iconic buildings, red buses, and afternoon teas. Sounds great.  And it is…to an adult.

To a child, though, there is only one thing they’re interested in when it comes to London:  Harry Potter.  And there is one place that stands out, a spot that’ll determine if she is a witch or he a wizard: Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station

Both are real places – a fact lost on me when I first read the books.  And lucky me: I got to share them via Skype with a class of 2nd graders who read and compared US and UK editions of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone earlier this school year.  This group, I thought, would love to “see” the platform and the real King’s Cross.  Technology – Skype – could help make it happen.

I sent a query email to their teacher Ms. A, asking if she was interested in a virtual field trip.  (Note: this was quite deliberate –  I know that Ms. A loves England & London.)  A Skype rookie, she was willing to try something new because London! England! HARRY POTTER!  Making literature come alive!!  It was the tech that could be tricky.  Because while my former school is Microsoft school, few teachers use Skype (or any other platform) to connect to the world and expand the classroom walls.  It was a goal of mine, once in London, to help change that. 🙂

Ms. A was great at sorting it out (a very English phrase): securing a wide-angle camera and a better mic from the district, asking for help from the tech folk when needed, setting up a Skype account.  I was ready with the Skype app on my phone and wifi.  And together, we made some magic.

I “toured” King’s Cross with the class – it’s enormous, with trains and a tube (subway) station, dozens of restaurants and people everywhere – then made our way to the platform.  Along the way, I answered questions, showed them the official Platform 9 3/4 shop, and asked them questions about HP.

Skype was a perfect tool for our virtual field trip, though I imagine Google Hangouts would also work well.  Some helpful tips (learned in “The School of Trial and Error”) for hosting a Skype literature field trip:

  • Do a practice call in advance!  Make sure the mic/camera/connection/usernames work.
  • Make sure the whole class has heard the book & knows about the location to be shared.
  • Have students submit questions in advance in the event of tech troubles.  Ms. A emailed hers to me.  They were partially about HP, partially about London, but all from their heart.
  • Use a mic and headset for the single presenter.  This is a MUST!  My mic/headset earbuds were vital to the success.
  • Know your “tour” and literature. Don’t start at the main event…lead up to it.
  • Plan for 20 minutes.  Much more and people get restless.

And some reflection:

  • Have some student interaction/movement.  I asked students to share their Hogwarts house and which was their favorite character, but I should have done more with this.  Maybe a  “who said this line?” quiz?
  • Come up with questions to ask the class that require everyone to participate.  Again, I could have done better…
  • Ask the students if there is anything they would like to see more of.  I feel like I went way too fast through the train station and that it was a blur.  I should have slowed down!
  • Find someone to interview?  Maybe the people at the HP store, maybe someone waiting in the Platform 9 3/4 line…

Thanks, Skype, for making our world a bit smaller AND bigger.  Technology allowed us to expand the walls of learning outside of a suburban Seattle school and connect to a city thousands of miles away.  It also allowed this homesick librarian to see and interact with her students in a way not possible a decade ago.  Win-win, all around.

Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko

Newbery Honor Author.  Caldecott Award Illustrator.  Those two facts alone would sell a book, but when it’s Gennifer Choldenko (of Al Capone Does My Shirts fame) and Dan Santat (the brilliant Beekle creator) that we’re talking about, just take my money now.  Because their collaborative effort Dad and the Dinosaur released yesterday.  And we are all richer for it.

Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko

Young Nicholas is afraid of everything – from big concepts like the dark to inconsequential things like manhole covers.  But don’t tell his dad, who is the biggest, bravest, most fearless person Nicholas knows and who knows that Nicholas is, too.   And Nicholas can be brave – when he has his trusty little dinosaur by his side.  The small, plastic dinosaur he carries gives him the strength to be big and confident.  It goes with him everywhere, small but mighty, until the day it goes missing. Nicholas had it tucked securely in his sock during his soccer game, and he’s desperate to go out and find it.  But it’s bedtime.  Dark.  Nicholas must face his greatest fear – disappointing his dad – if he’s going to get the dino back.  The tender side of fatherhood isn’t often seen in picture books, and even more rarely when interacting with young sons.  Choldenko’s story – paired with Santat’s eye-catching illusrations – is one for every dad to read and share.  A great springboard to talk about fears and how children can cope with them.  Share with ages 4-10.

Dan Santat created the trailer for the book, below.  Is anyone else as happy as me to see another Santat book featuring dinosaurs?

Still another sneak peek – click the picture below for a flip-through of of Dad and the Dinosaur from Dan.

#DadAndTheDinosaur written by Gennifer Choldenko, art by Me. In stores March 2017

A post shared by Dan Santat (@dsantat) on

 

Dad and the Dinosaur released March 28, 2017 in the US.

One of the previewed titles at 2017 London Book Fair at the Penguin Random House booth. Look how busy it was!

Cheers, y’all! 🙂 arika

Caring for Your Lion by Tammi Sauer

A favorite book from 2016 was Jon Agee’s Lion Lessons. Agee’s crisp cover, showcasing a lion and boy in lion garb, delivered a witty tale (tale?) of a boy who wanted to become a lion.  The best way to learn is, of course, by taking lessons and learning the steps from an expert in the field.  This read-aloud beautifully and begged for some creative dramatics.

Now, in 2017, comes Tammi Sauer’s clever Caring for Your Lion, taking the lion-learning to the next level. How, exactly does one care for a lion? Let’s find out.

Caring for Your Lion by Tammi Sauer

A young boy is expecting a new pet; however, expecting a kitten, he is surprised to receive a lion (a lion is, after all, a slightly larger version of a cat).  Now he is tasked to learn how one cares for a lion – it’s bound to be different than a kitten.  Step by step, humorous details of life with a lion unfold.  Feeding, litter-box training, and creating a space for play are integral to lion-care, as is a feather – it comes in handy to escape unexpected situations!  Sauer’s witty text is enhanced with Cummings’s (The Notebook of Doom) bold, graphic illustrations.  Case in point: the case cover, a pizza box, covered with toppings a lion would choose (veggie or meat?)  A brilliant choice for working on sequencing, it can also springboard into research lessons using primary sources and databases.  Imagine, after reading aloud, a lesson using the PebbleGo database to discover the actual needs and living environment of lions. Or taking notes observing lion behaviors as seen in a primary source: a lion webcam (does this one work? I can’t tell here in London!)  Share with ages 4-8.

Caring for Your Lion releases May 2, 2017.

One of the previewed titles at 2017 London Book Fair at the Sterling booth.

Cheers, y’all! 🙂 arika

Mine by Jeff Mack

There’s this book – Good News, Bad News – that I often put on display in my former library. The cover was eye-catching, but better still was the story’s message: that if you look hard enough, a bit of good can be found in any bad situation. This takeaway, the eye-catching illustrations – along with only those three words (good, bad, news) – made it a favorite among students and staff.

The author is Jeff Mack, and he has another hit on his hands with the forthcoming Mine!.  Mice again star in this limited-word story; in this case, the title word is the only word in the book.  It is, however, far from a one-note hit.

Mine! by Jeff Mack

Two mice. One large rock. And one giant problem: whose rock is it? Both mice declare “Mine!” as they engage in a match of cunning and try to outwit the other to lay claim to the prize. As the trickery increases, so too do the reactions.  The storyline and subject are enough to make it a good read for young learners struggling with sharing; however, it’s Mack’s illustrations that are a gold mine for teachers incorporating social-emotional learning (SEL) with their students. There is much to take in and then discuss from the animated mice – their facial expressions and body language range from ebullient to miserable, triumphant to dejected – and ensuing conversation would likely be rich and impactful.  Mine’s unique case cover under the book jacket adds to the design appeal and provides an opportunity for some critical thinking for young readers: imagine what the mice would do if they saw that cheese!  Pair with Anna Kang’s That is (Not) Mine for a double-dose of consideration for others and cooperative agreement.  Share with ages 2-7.

Mine! releases May 9, 2017.

One of the previewed titles at 2017 London Book Fair at the Chronicle/Abrams booth.

I’m a fan of book cover/case cover designs. It’s something I look for, teach students to examine, and share in every read-aloud. My own children will often inspect library books to see what’s under the taped cover. If you like these design differences too, be sure to look into The Undies, an award for best book/case cover design.

Cheers, y’all! 🙂 arika

Charlie and Mouse by Laurel Snyder

Does anyone else start reading a book by flipping to the author info page at the back to learn about a new writer?  Because I do.  Finding a way to connect with the author – from things we like to do to places we live – is part of my reader identity. This may be why I struggle to engage in ebooks…but that’s another post.

Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes

In Charlie & Mouse, the author page didn’t disappoint. Laurel Snyder lives in my childhood hometown of Atlanta, GA (though I’d love to ask her, “where in Atlanta?”, as GA folk usually live in a suburb – for me, Marietta). Even better, Emily Hughes is down the road from my new home in London on the shores of Brighton. These blurbs hooked me. Even better was the story they created together.

Siblings Charlie and Mouse star in four short, illustrated chapters showcasing an ideal life as a kid.  From waking up Mom in the early morning to conjuring up a plan to earn money to interacting with neighbors, these brothers are exactly what young readers need: a breath of reality in an overstimulating world. Snyder makes some lovely, forward-thinking choices in characterization: Mouse chooses to wear a pink tutu, their couple next door are Mr. Eric & Mr. Michael, and the boys themselves are mixed-race. These choices, though, are noticed almost as an afterthought, as the story’s engaging plot line and characterization are strong.  Add in the full-color illustrations from Emily Hughes and this story is a winner for sharing as a read-aloud or independent reading. The boys truly shine with the addition of their grandfather in the sequel, Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy. Two worthy additions to the newly-expanding transitional reader market, this is a must-purchase for all libraries.  Share with ages 4-10.

Charlie & Mouse releases April 11, 2017.  Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy releases October 3, 2017.

Two of the previewed titles at 2017 London Book Fair at the Chronicle/Abrams booth.

Cheers, y’all! 🙂 arika

2017 London Book Fair: a librarian’s recap

Last week was the 2017 London Book Fair.  The conference center where it was held was a mere 20 minute walk from my temp flat AND the cost was only £20 for three days. Having read their website, I wasn’t sure if it was for me…but I went. As my friend Shauna says, because why not?!

It was, in a word, massive.  Literally tens of thousands in attendance.  A gigantic, two-story conference floor with the most beautiful, diverse displays from publishers, companies, and countries across the world.

It was not, however, a “book fair” in the typical understanding of a librarian who has hosted book fairs.  Not so many books were on display, especially considering what is commonly seen at ALA, TLA, AASL, BookExpo and the like.  None were for sale.  No authors were there (okay, that’s a lie…there was one featured author each day on site).

What was it, then?  A time for publishers, buyers, agents, and studios to do business.  It was meetings, not sessions.  The publisher booths were packed with people, sitting at tables, discussing titles to be translated or foreign rights sold or merchandising deals made or sales abroad.  It was intense.  BUSY.  Less about readers and books, more about the business of books.  So I, who love reading and talking and connecting readers and new books, was so very out of my element.  It was okay, though.  Careful observation of booths led me to some new titles.  Chronicle Books came through as a huge winner with a display of new American books that made my heart soar.  Living in London, I’m finding, means a limited access to American titles – and certainly not immediate access. There were many fewer middle-grade and YA titles on display that I’d hoped, but that’s okay: ALA is in a few short months, after all.

So what did I see?  What stood out in the world of kidlit?  Take a look.  Look for reviews of these titles in the coming days and weeks – only the best quality books rated a photograph!  And enjoy an inside view of one of the largest book fairs in the world.

Cheers, y’all! 🙂 arika